College students as role models

A few years ago, Michael Wickliffe re-evaluated his life. Although he enjoyed his career as a floral and special events designer, “I decided it was time to work smarter, not harder, for the next stage of my life,” Wickliffe said.

Inspired by the example of a friend, a hair stylist who studied nursing at Community College of Philadelphia, he decided to pursue a college education.

It was a huge adjustment. “I had to learn how to deal with someone else’s schedule, since I’d always been self-employed,” Wickliffe said. “It was a challenge.”

He met that challenge head on, attending school full-time while continuing to work. He also got involved in the leadership of the Rho Epsilon Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community college students.

Wickliffe received his associate’s degree in psychology last week. He will be continuing at Temple this fall through the dual admissions program, then hopes to get his Ph.D.

He wants to work with children. “Watching the news, our children today have so many issues that I didn’t have as a child,” he said. “As an African-American male, it’s important to serve as a role model.”

Good news, Michael: You already do.

Getting laid off was an opportunity

When the economy tanked in 2008, a lot of people were laid off; Karen White was one of them. Although she had a bachelor’s degree from Temple in business law, she was worried about her future. “At 49,” she said, “who was going to hire me?”

Her daughter told her about a government program that would pay for the first 12 college credits for career changers. “I decided not to take those credits willy-nilly, but to choose a program that would lead to a career I would love,” White said.

She enrolled in the behavioral health and human services program at the Community College of Philadelphia, with the goal of becoming a social worker working with the elderly.

“I want to be a champion for the little guy,” White says. “When I worked at a bank, I’d work with seniors, and not just with banking issues.”

Last week, White got her associate’s degree from the college, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. She’ll enter Bryn Mawr College this fall in pursuit of a dual master’s in social services and law and social policy.

“When I got accepted into Bryn Mawr, I cried, because my dream has come true. I am so thankful,” White said.

Follow Judy Weightman on Twitter @JudyWEdu.

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